GamesMaster Host Robert Florence On Succeeding Dominik Diamond And Why Switch Is “The Greatest Console”

Listen, Rob's not messing around here. He knows his games
Listen, Rob’s not messing around here. He knows his games (Image: Robert Florence)

Over the holidays we’re republishing some of our best features, interviews, opinion pieces and talking points from the previous 12 months from staff and contributors alike — articles that we feel represent our best of 2021. In them you’ll find our usual mix of thoughtfulness, frivolity, retro expertise, gaming nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Enjoy!

As we reported just a few days ago, Scottish comedian, writer, poet and self-professed “God of Games” Robert Florence has been announced as host of the upcoming reboot of Channel 4’s iconic GamesMaster. Alongside co-hosts Frankie Ward and Ty Logan, Robert will be bringing us a fresh new take on the challenge-based hijinks of the ’90s classic as he steps into the shoes of fellow Scot, Dominik Diamond.

We were lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with Robert in a cosy little corner of a bar in Glasgow to chat him about the new show, the old show, what we can hope to expect when GamesMaster hits E4 later this year, and a few other bits and pieces besides.

Nintendo Life: Hi, Robert, thanks for sitting down to chat with us. Let’s start with the old GamesMaster from back in the day; were you a big fan, did you catch much of it when it was on TV the first time around?

Robert Florence: I was definitely an admirer of the show. I wouldn’t say that I was a super fan or anything like that, because I was a wee bit older I think than the main audience was at the time, but I definitely admired it a lot. I admired what Dominik Diamond did with the format and I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I think the unique format is only a small part of the GamesMaster story. I really think that the show was built on what Dominik brought to it through his personality and his worldview; his skill at handling people and guests.

Now you’re presenting this newly rebooted version. How did that come about?

Basically, I got asked, I got invited to come down to London and I’ve never auditioned for anything in my life. So, that was definitely a big decision for me to decide whether or not to go down and audition, but then I think it was that thing, I mean, it’s GamesMaster. I just feel like I would have always regretted it if I didn’t go and at least try to get in there and be involved. So I went down and met the people and everybody seemed really nice and I had a lot of fun on the day, and luckily I got the job.

Do you think that it’s a coincidence that another Scot is taking the reins, or do you think you guys just genuinely have the best banter and games knowledge? Haha!

No, I don’t think it’s a total coincidence. I definitely think there’s an understanding within the production team that the Scottish worldview maybe helps on a show like GamesMaster. I do think being Scottish maybe helps… although it definitely won’t help the audience who are trying to understand the words that I’m saying when I’m on the show. I think if people stick on the subtitles, they’ll probably manage to get through it.

Obviously, if it was up to me… look, it’s a good thing that the show isn’t gonna be full of my ideas because if it was, it would be a disaster – it would be pulled off air overnight, probably

What kind of energy are you hoping to bring to the show? Are we looking at the same sort of vibe as the ’90s, or have you got other ideas?

For me, it’s an interesting situation, because everything I’ve ever done on TV, I’ve either written it or had a large amount of control with it, and with something like this, I’m ‘just’ the presenter; I’m just turning up and being put into the situation. So I’m looking forward to just trying to get away with stuff; I’m looking forward to stepping into that place and seeing what I’m allowed to do and what I can get away with, having fun with the people that are there and just trying to make things that wee bit chaotic. I just want to be there and have fun with this thing.

That’s the thing as the presenter of the show; I think the key is, just be there and make it fun. And, you know, my co-presenters on the show, Frankie Ward and Ty Logan, both of them are just really funny, great people. We’ve only just met for the first time a few weeks ago and we’re already getting on really well, laughing with each other and messing about, so I think we’re just going to have a really good time.

Also, it’s a very high-pressure situation, a big studio show like this; there are a lot of moving parts, there’s a lot of rights issues, a lot of things, a lot of needles that you need to thread to make something like this work. So, our job is just to try to step into that space that they’ve built for us and try and have as much fun as we possibly can.

We know you’ve done a little bit of filming already with some more imminent. Can you tell us anything about the process so far, what’s been involved, how much of your own ideas you’re bringing to the table?

Obviously, if it was up to me… look, it’s a good thing that the show isn’t gonna be full of my ideas because if it was, it would be a disaster – it would be pulled off air overnight, probably. So it’s a good thing that we have smart people involved who understand how to make properly entertaining shows for TV. I’m happy to just turn up and try to inject a wee bit of my personality into the deal and also try and do a good job of making everybody feel comfortable, and stuff like that. I think with a show like GamesMaster, the reason why we all play games at the end of the day is to have fun and I think it should be a fun show. I think we’ve certainly had fun making it so far, and I’m sure when we get in the studio next week we’ll have even more fun.

Can you give us any little nuggets of anything that we’re going to see over the three episodes that you guys are filming just now?

GamesMaster is still a challenge-based thing; it’s always been about the challenges, so we’ve got some interesting stuff happening and yeah, I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say. Haha. We’re gonna see; we’ve definitely got some really interesting people coming on, some very interesting guests, and they’re going to be playing a lot of games that people are very familiar with.

And you know, because it’s GamesMaster and it’s back for the first time in a long time it can’t be me demanding that Radiant Silvergun gets played or have everyone playing some very obscure Japanese RPG like that; we’ve got to come in softly and gently and try and win audiences back, so we’ll be playing a lot of well-known stuff. Mario will make an appearance without a doubt, we’ll be easing people in gently that way.

Florence's latest sitcom, The Scotts, is available on BBC iPlayer now
Florence’s latest sitcom, The Scotts, is available on BBC iPlayer now (Image: Robert Florence)

The focus of GamesMaster, I think, should always be on the challenges. I think there’s already this perception out there that this new show is going to be all about focusing on celebrities. That is not what this show is going to be, I’m not sure why that has come about; this is going to be about people who love games and love playing games. The celebrity element is not something that anybody should worry about, this is not going to be a thing where celebs come on and promote themselves. There’s going to be people who are into games and love games, just normal punters off the street coming on, playing a game of FIFA in front of me with me shouting some abuse at them and the GamesMaster’s big head hovering over the top of everything.

And your co-presenters, you’ve mentioned them a little already, but tell us a bit more about them…

The co-presenters that I’ve got here, I’m so lucky to have somebody like Frankie beside me on this because she’s hugely respected, she knows so much about games, she knows so much about eSports in particular, which is an area of gaming I have really no knowledge of, and Frankie can talk at great length and in intricate detail about this stuff. She can describe Counter-Strike maps from memory and she’s just a brilliant presenter, she’s going to be stealing the show without a doubt.

Ty is new to TV, he hasn’t done that much stuff, but what a personality he is – people are going to fall in love with him the minute they see him. He’s full of energy, he loves games… he isn’t like me where he’s like, you know, decades-old, almost at death’s door, an ancient guy who’s played a million games and is jaded and has seen it all before. Ty’s wide-eyed and innocent, and he loves games – and people are gonna love him.

I think that people might have been concerned that it was going to be this person from Love Island and that person from this or that show, but it’s not going to be like that

Are you able to tell us about any guests that are going to be on the show?

In terms of guests, as I said, I think that people might have been concerned that it was going to be this person from Love Island and that person from this or that show, but it’s not going to be like that. I don’t even really know until I step into the studio on Monday who the guests are going to be. I’ve got a wee bit of an idea who we might have asked, but I want to keep a lot of this stuff as a surprise for myself; I want to be stepping into that studio to shoot the show and find out just beforehand who’s coming on, what’s their story, what are they gonna be playing.

I want that element of surprise, even for myself, so I think when people tune in they’re not gonna see some polished, overwritten project that’s had a million hands touching it; I think what they’re gonna see is a nice live-feeling and chaotic show where a lot of people are just doing things for the first time during the challenges… we won’t be faking the challenges, these people will only get one shot at trying to do it and if they don’t do it they won’t win the joystick. There’ll be no retakes, no rematches, none of that, not on this version of GamesMaster.

Do you think the original GamesMaster influenced anything you’ve done in games over the years? Is there some kind of maybe even subconscious link between it and the stuff you’ve done like Consolevania and videoGaiden?

I think GamesMaster is a very particular thing; everything I’ve done in games over the years has probably been more influenced by sketch show stuff, and I just never imagined I would ever be involved with anything like this which is a big studio show, an insane big studio format. And so no, I wouldn’t say it’s influenced anything we’ve done. I mean, certainly, it’s probably some kind of influence in the sense that it was the best video games TV show of all time, and it was that way because of Dominik Diamond – he was a comedian, he was a funny man talking about games and I think that’s probably had its own influence. I sense the fact that people associate a funny guy with a Scottish accent with this type of video games coverage now. That’s probably something that’s seeped into the culture to an extent.

Let’s move on from GamesMaster a wee bit. How do you feel about gaming and games media, in general, these days? Are we in a good place right now?

Look. I think we’re in a great place, I think there’s so much stuff now, there are so many people out there who are coming from completely different places, and that’s great. I feel like the gaming community is just becoming so much more welcoming to people. Back in the day, when GamesMaster was originally on TV, video games were still perceived as a thing that was predominantly for wee white guys, whereas now you can see that gaming has become a very broad church with all sorts of people welcomed and taking their place within it. So, I’m walking into this with my eyes wide open and I also think and know I’m very fortunate to be presenting this as a straight white male.

You’ve got so many different opinions and worldviews and different lived experiences from people nowadays. And even within video games themselves, you can see so many different stories being told. There was a period not too long ago where it felt like every game was some first-person shooter with some white guy, and now you see a broad spectrum of really interesting stuff from a broad spectrum of people. I think that’s the same with things like Twitch and YouTube, you get so many people being able to put their own spin on what it means to be a person that plays video games.

So, GamesMaster as a show that’s always been associated with guys really, with men, I think that’s one of the real positive changes we get to make… I think what we’ll make here is something that tries to better reflect the fact that gaming is a broad church these days with a wide and diverse audience. I think if Frankie and Ty have any sense, they’ll also be trying to make sure that this straight white male who is presenting GamesMaster this time round doesn’t survive past these first three episodes.

What games are you playing at the minute, what stuff are you currently enjoying?

At the minute on the Switch I’m playing The House in Fata Morgana, which is great. I’m also playing Cruis‘n Blast, which I absolutely love. And I am also playing Shadowverse!

And the Switch in general, how do you rate it alongside other modern consoles and in terms of Nintendo’s previous consoles?

This Switch is the greatest console currently on the market, and I’m not just saying that because this is a Nintendo website – I really think it is

This Switch is the greatest console currently on the market, and I’m not just saying that because this is a Nintendo website – I really think it is. It’s the one that I use the most, it’s the one with the best catalogue of games. It feels like there’s great stuff coming out on switch every week, it’s just such a wealth of content and diverse experiences and I just love it. I love the fact I can play on the go and I think in terms of other Nintendo consoles, I’m a big Nintendo fan, a huge fan of the N64, and the Switch is the most I’ve enjoyed a Nintendo console since the N64 I would say. I also love the GameCube… and the Wii. The Switch is amazing for indie stuff – it’s an indie machine.

I like to have physical copies of games – that’s how old I am – I need to have the physical copies of stuff, so currently I have a massive Nintendo Switch collection; I think I’ve got something coming up on around 300 physical Switch games at the minute, so yeah, a big fan.

Favourite Switch game?

Oooft. A very difficult question to answer that, what is your favourite Switch game… because there’s so much good old stuff on the system as well… maybe that’s an impossible question. Let me think. I want to say something. Give me a sec. Give me a sec. It’s impossible to answer that question because there’s just so much that I love on the Switch but I do want to give a shout out to something that was maybe a little less well known, a game called Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, which is just a completely beautiful game that I think has passed a lot of people by. It was well-received when it came out, but I think it passed a lot of people by. River City Girls too, it’s one of the best games on Switch. There’s just so much good stuff, it’s a real struggle to think of anything I would call my absolute favourite.

Final question. If you can, in no particular order, give us your three favourite Nintendo games of all time. Nice and easy.

Oh God. Let’s see… my favourite Nintendo games of all time are… oh man. I would have to say, if we’re not counting Resident Evil 4 as a Nintendo game, because I consider it a Nintendo game – it launched on the GameCube, it was a GameCube exclusive for a wee while. However, if we’re just talking Nintendo published games, Nintendo-developed games then okay, here’s my three in no particular order. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, F-Zero X and… Super Mario Galaxy. I mean, in my head, Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2 are combined – they’re the same game – Mario Galaxy 2 is probably the better game.

A big thanks to Robert Florence for taking the time to speak to us and we can’t wait to check out the new GamesMaster when it hits E4’s YouTube channel a little later this year! If you can’t wait until then, you can see Rob in Consolevania every month.


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